A Change of Heart: Salesian Missionary Volunteering Experience

My missionary experience took me to Banswara, Rajasthan. Along with my friend, Dr. Gloria, I went for 10 days. Our visit was during peak summer, and the scorching 48-degree heat was harrowing, but it was also an opportunity to see a new place, culture, and way of life. Salesian Missionary Volunteering is invaluable for youth seeking exposure and a chance to make an impact. It allows young people a chance to explore another side of life.

 Pope Benedict XVI once said, “The Catholic volunteer work cannot respond to all the needs, but that does not discourage us.The little that we manage to do to relieve human needs can be seen as a good seed that will grow and bear much fruit; it is a sign of Christ’s presence and love which, like the tree in the Gospel, grows to give shelter, protection, and strength to all who require it.” This sentiment encapsulates the essence of Salesian Missionary Volunteering, where through small acts of kindness we can spread Christ’s love. My journey as a Salesian Missionary Volunteer has been a transformative experience, bringing to light the power of presence, the significance of community, and the beauty of silence.

 We had the opportunity to spread goodness in simple yet profound ways. A warm smile, cooking a meal with Rahel, Gloria prescribing medicine to a lady with gout disease, making Aam Panna (mango squash) for the priests, and putting together a handout for future Salesian Missionary Volunteers were small acts that carried great meaning. Like St. Teresa of Lisieux, I discovered the "little way" that enables love for our neighbors. Each encounter, no matter how small, was a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit.

 One of the most important tasks of our mission was to visit and live with families of the village. On my first visit, I had the privilege to spend the day with Rahel’s family in Kevadia village. Rahel, is a brave woman with four children. While we were at her home, she invited the youth from the village as well. Initially, it seemed challenging to get the conversation started, but as we spent time together, we grew comfortable in each other's presence. This experience taught me the value of silence and presence, of listening with meekness and respect. Each person has a unique lifestyle and way of thinking, and understanding them requires careful observation and a delicate touch.

 Rahel's story exemplified resilience. She worked tirelessly to support her family on a meager income. By listening to her, I learnt that it is important to treat others with a delicate sensitivity, making them feel secure, respecting their choices, attitudes and taking care not to touch on their wounds. Despite our different circumstances, we shared common attitudes in life, such as the power of prayer, which gives resilience and strength.

 Living in the city, I have grown accustomed to excesses and a comfortable life. The life of people in Kevadia village was strikingly different. They woke up at 5 am and contributed to household chores. Despite the challenges, there was a sense of community and resilience that was inspiring.

 Living in a Salesian house with 3 priests was a whole new experience. When I entered their community, I was welcomed as family. For me this meant accepting their home as my own for the next ten days, abiding by the rules as well as contributing to the day to day chores. I cherished the moments of silence in the home. Coming from the city, it was a delight to live in a spacious house with ample trees. I dedicated myself to prayer and Bible reading in the chapel. Waking up every morning to the sound of chirping of birds and spotting some rare bird species brought immense joy. Being able to immerse myself in the present moment was a gift.

 Salesian Missionary Volunteering has been a journey of heart and soul. It has taught me to embrace each other with Christ’s love and to offer my skills with humility. Pope Francis aptly said, “When we pray, God takes us, blesses us, and then breaks and gives us,” so that we may satisfy everyone’s hunger. In God’s hands, every Christian is called to become bread broken and shared. This mission, not just a task but a way of being, has given me encouragement and motivation to work better, to serve others, and to spread the goodness of Christ’s love in every small act.